Recently I shared how one of our ministries, the Floris Guest House, came to be. Earlier this year we finished our third Guest House, where we hosted 40 or so individuals at our church for a week as a part of a greater ecumenical coalition (group of churches) that hosts the homeless from December to the end of March in partnership with FACETS, a local social service agency.
This year, 239 volunteers gave over 1,400 hours to serve our neighbors. In addition to a warm place to sleep, volunteers provided new winter clothing and boots, hot showers, warm meals and games and activities.
When we planned our first year of this program, one of the questions that came up was what we were going to name the program. Since we already had a “hypothermia program” via our partnership with Cornerstones (another local social service agency), we didn’t want to confuse the congregation with another hypothermia program.
As a group, we wanted the program to have a stronger feeling of hospitality and warmth than just a normal hypothermia program. Obviously, ensuring that the homeless have a warm place to sleep during the winter months was the priority, but we also wanted to set the tone for how we would interact with our guests.
The term “guests” kept coming up. That’s how we wanted to refer to our friends that would be staying with us and that’s how FACETS asked us to reference those needing shelter. We ultimately decided the “Guest House” fully encapsulated the tone and intent of our program. A reading from Luke 14:12-14 better explains what the team was thinking when they came up with the name:
“And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'”
We knew that this program would not only bless our neighbors, but it would also bless our congregation. As hosts to our guests, our members and volunteers sought to be warm, loving and hospitable. By calling it “Guest House,” we set a tone of hospitality that is evident in how people are treated and in the services we provide.
It’s been an amazing three years of the Guest House, and I look forward to working with you on next year’s program!